The curly hair story brought thanks from folks who were telling me to change Elly’s hair, complaints from folks who thought it was ugly, and very personal letters from women and men who were waiting for a hair disaster to grow out. Hair, it seems, is very serious stuff.
I bought a pair of good scissors one day because I couldn’t find my sewing shears anywhere. I told Kate that these were not to be removed from my sewing box. Several days later, they were gone. The two of us did a massive clean up of the house and we found 9 pairs of scissors. Like socks, scissors sometimes disappear from the face of the earth…never to be found again.
The first boy-girl party I ever went to was at my friend Carolyn’s house. We were all about 13. It was an easy mix until the lights went down and we tried slow dancing. We had been taught how to waltz in gym class, but in a real basement with real couples, it was awkward.
There were about a dozen of us at the party, all dressed up and giggling. What I remember most, besides being hot and sweaty and dancing cheek to cheek, was a burping contest. Pop was expensive. None of us had it at home very often and Carolyn’s mom had bought us a real variety.
Somebody (might have been me) suggested we shake up the bottles of pop, drink them and see who could burp the loudest. The guys thought this was a good idea, so they and I got the contest underway. Carolyn and the rest of the girls didn’t want to get involved, but they didn’t want to tell on us either–in case it was a cool scene.
It wasn’t a cool scene. The pop went down and came right back up again. It came out our mouths and out of our noses. I’d chosen cream soda and I was covered in it. My dress was soaked up the front, the guys were also wet and embarrassed, but we laughed anyway. The audience was silent, and I had learned something: It’s of utmost importance to practice a gag before you try to pull it off. When a gag goes wrong, the troops are called and the night ends quickly. I wasn’t invited back.
This was as close as I ever got to having nudity in the strip. My editors had to think about this one before they permitted it to run. I don’t think any of the papers refused to print it, but I did get a couple of warning notes from papers in the southern US.
Behind the scenes, I knew that Gordon Mayes’ family life was very difficult. His dad drank and was abusive, his mom was too tolerant and too fearful to defend Gordon from blows and belittling. I rarely talked about this in the strip. Just alluding to it gave Gordon an extra element of reality. It made him someone for whom I felt compassion and concern. His character grew after this.